Flawless Hawksworth doubles up north of the border|
Jack Hawksworth re-asserted his grip on the chase for the 2012 Star Mazda Championship crown with a 'perfect' double victory at Toronto Indy that has seen the US racing rookie storm almost 40 points clear of his adversaries.
After losing the championship lead that he had held all season when a mechanical failure pitched his Team Pelfrey single-seater into the unforgiving wall from third place at Iowa Speedway a fortnight earlier, Jack journeyed north of the border to Canada determined to reaffirm his authority on proceedings.
With the Star Mazda protagonists supporting the headlining IndyCar Series, the spotlight was shining bright, and the talented young Bradford-born speed demon entered the weekend buoyed by his street circuit form from earlier in the year, when he had claimed a brace of triumphs and two runner-up spots from the opening four outings.
"Coming off the back of two tough weekends that hadn't yielded the results we had been looking for, we had to work really hard to make sure that this time, we got the results we deserved," he underlined. "All credit to the team - they did an amazing job to turn the car around after it had been left a complete wreck at Iowa.
"The atmosphere was buzzing and the track is just awesome! It's one of the more historic street circuits in North America, and really old-school. It's bumpy, with lots of different types of asphalt and varieties of corner, which made it really interesting and enjoyable to drive. It's gritty and exciting, demanding absolute precision and allowing no room for error, and it was incredible being so close to downtown Toronto and all its skyscrapers."
After placing fourth out of the 21 contenders in practice, Jack knew he was in good shape - and his fourth PEAK Performance pole position out of seven in 2012 proved it. What's more, despite lapping a gaping four tenths of a second out-of-reach of any of his rivals around the challenging, 2.84km, 11-turn layout, the highly-rated Cullingworth hotshot was adamant that he could have gone quicker still. Ominous indeed. And so, to the races.
"In the first one, I got a good start but then almost immediately we had a safety car due to an accident," he recounted. "We spent a couple of laps behind that, I made a good re-start and began to open up a gap - and then a lap-and-a-half later again, there was another safety car, which closed the field right up onto the back of me.
"Then we had ten laps of racing and we had a really good car so I was able to establish a decent advantage over second place. After that, it was a case mainly of making sure I got fastest lap, to secure pole position for race two. It was a brilliant outcome and a massive result for everybody in the team. After losing the championship lead at Iowa, this was the perfect way to respond, but we were already looking ahead to the next day...
"Race two was probably the craziest and most dramatic race I've ever been in - just carnage, and I think there were more laps under full-course yellow than green! At the end, we were left with effectively a three-lap sprint and although we had proved time and again that we had both the pace and ability to control matters and pull away, I think during one of the safety car periods, I had picked up a slow puncture from some debris.
"Over the last lap-and-a-half, the car became really difficult to drive due to that, and given the race had only just gone 'green' again, I didn't even have much of a lead to fall back on. Luckily for me, the guys behind were busy fighting amongst themselves so I just had to keep my cool and concentrate on bringing it safely home. I never felt we were in any real danger of losing the win, but I'll admit I was relieved to see the chequered flag, because by then, the tyre was completely flat..."
Completing an imperious clean sweep of lights-to-flag victories, pole positions and fastest laps, Jack's flawless weekend saw him not only regain the championship lead, but indeed leave Toronto some 39 points ahead of his closest pursuer.
With more street circuits and road courses on the immediate agenda - beginning with Indy Edmonton and the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres in the forthcoming weeks - the 21-year-old British Racing Drivers' Club Rising Star and TORGOEN Swiss brand ambassador knows that now is the time to really hammer home his advantage.
"I was ecstatic to make it a double success," he mused in conclusion, "and it feels so good to be back in the sweet spot again. Given how professional Team Pelfrey is and how hard they work, this kind of weekend has been on the cards for a while. We didn't put a foot wrong, and I owe a huge thanks to the team; they gave me a great car, and after Iowa, this just shows how quickly everything can turn around. We arrived at Toronto four points behind in the standings, and left with the biggest lead we've had all season and a lot of positive momentum.
"Edmonton looks like an interesting circuit and one that ought to suit us. These three Canadian weekends are so important, and whilst I'm obviously keen to maintain this winning run, the most important thing will be to do the best we can every weekend - and then after that, hopefully the championship will take care of itself."
Race Report by Russell Atkins
Photos by Eric McCombs